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Guns-On-Campus Information Session Addresses Safety Concerns

Guns-On-Campus

UAPD Chief Steve Gahagans stands watch as students gather in the Arkansas Union Mall for the festivities associated with the solar eclipse on Aug. 21.  

Arkansas State Police have 120 days after Sept. 1 to introduce a training program for the Arkansas guns-on-campus law, which has caused concern and confusion among UA faculty.

About 55 people, including UA professors and officials, attended an information session Aug. 15 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fayetteville regarding Act 562, the law that requires Arkansas public colleges to allow people to carry concealed handguns, said Steve Boss, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees member and UA geoscience professor.

The new law will allow UA students at least 21 years of age to carry concealed firearms on campus after completion of an advanced training-certification program.

The law goes into effect Sept. 1, but until the training program is designed by Arkansas State Police, no one will be allowed to carry a concealed handgun on campus, said Mark Rushing, assistant vice chancellor of University Relations.

“We don’t know the exact date when it will be legal for concealed carry on our campus,” Rushing said.

Rushing, along with UA Police Department Director Steve Gahagans, Matt McCoy, UA Associate General Counsel and Officer Scott Carlton of the Fayetteville Police Department, were panelists at the session organized by AFSCME.

Given the unfamiliarity of the new law, Rushing said the public’s opinions and questions were welcome.

At the information session, faculty asked about what to do in scenarios when a student is suspected of having a gun, but the gun is not visible.

In situations where a student threatens someone with a gun, but the gun is not visible, UAPD should be alerted. However, if a student approaches a professor to tell them that another student has a gun, there is no need to report the incident as long as the gun is concealed, Gahagans said.

If people see a gun, they should assume it is illegal because the law stipulates that the gun must be concealed, Gahagans said.

Gahagans is concerned for the safety of his police officers and the officers that will have to enforce this law, he said.

He also stressed that carrying a gun on campus before an advanced training-certification program is introduced, even with previous completion of a concealed carry certification program, is illegal and should be reported.

There are some areas where people cannot carry a gun at all, concealed or not, which includes sporting events, the Jean Tyson Child Development Center and grievance and disciplinary meetings anywhere on campus. Practices in the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Building are considered sporting events, as well.

Concealed guns will not be allowed in grievance and disciplinary hearings that meet certain requirements, including a 24-hour notice and a sign posted on the door that notifies participants that concealed guns will not be allowed, Rushing said.

Security plans must be submitted for all sporting events, including practices, to the state police, McCoy said.

“By our first home game, no one will be able to carry a handgun into the stadium,” McCoy said.

Faculty were also unsure about the portion of the law that says concealed carriers must have their weapon “on or about” their person.

The “or about” portion allows students to carry their legal weapons in bags and purses within reach, but professors questioned how that would affect academic integrity during testing.

Michael Pierce, a UA associate history professor, asks students to leave their bags at the front of the classroom before testing but asked the panelists if by doing that, he would be separating a concealed carrier from their weapon, he said.

Separation from their weapon would be the carrier’s responsibility, while maintaining that he did not have all the answers on that particular question, Rushing said.

UA clinical associate professor Molly Jensen asked about referencing concealed carry in her syllabus.

Jensen said she wanted to know if she could legally ask students to not carry in her classroom because she would not be carrying herself.

Officials did not answer.

In response to professors’ concerns that students still do not know much about the law,

Rushing said that an information session would be beneficial to the UA campus .

Rushing is not sure when the information session may be held, he said.

There was hesitance for a campus session because some people want to wait until the training program is designed, and others want to have it as soon as possible, Rushing said.

 

A previous version of this article stated that a person can bring a concealed gun in a disciplinary hearing, and there must be a sign on the door of the meeting room to let the public know that there is a gun in the room. It has been changed to say concealed guns will not be allowed in grievance and disciplinary hearings that meet certain requirements, including a 24-hour notice and a sign posted on the door that notifies participants that concealed guns will not be allowed.

 

The Traveler strives for accuracy and clarity in all matters.

Read our past coverage of concealed-carry here

 

Campus Concealed Carry Law to Take Effect Next Fall

Many UA Faculty Oppose Concealed Carry Law

New Gun Bill Limits Carry in Sports Venues

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